Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Update Extra! Train Time!

Update to Luminar Neo v. 1.14.0 arrived yesterday, so if you're on one of the subscription options you'll have the new Neon & Glow tool, as well as the addition of Tilt/Shift to the Blur tool as soon as you install the update.

Big Boy On Acid (Neon & Glow) ©Daniel Gauss/Shot On Site

Durango & Silverton RR (tilt/shift blur) ©Daniel Gauss/Shot On Site

If you're an existing Lifetime owner, you'll need to purchase the Creative Journey Pass to have access to these updates, and all the extensions and tools to come from now until next Summer! Your other option, of course, is to upgrade to one of several subscription models here.  Remember, there's a bunch of really cool stuff coming, as I wrote about in the previous post.

Don't forget, you can save 10% off whatever you purchase with the discount code: PHOTODAN

Posts may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these, I may receive a small commission at no increased cost to you. Thanks.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Coming Attractions!

Sherri M. ©Daniel Gauss/Shot On Site
The fine folks at Skylum Software, the makers of Luminar Neo are poised to virtually bust a nut with new features this Autumn. The first of these is the already released Studio Light tool, which I've already featured here a couple of weeks back.  I've spent some more time with it, and have refined my technique a little, getting familiar with some of the options. Here's an example from a model shoot we had at the local photo club several years ago, and displays the use of some of the light patterns available. This isn't a tool I anticipate using a lot until it's (hopefully) available for more than human portraits.

Now suppose I was an accomplished graphic artist (I'm not) and I wanted to add some punch to use this already well polished image in, say, some magazine ad copy?(Dream on, Dan).  That's where the Skylum pipeline is ready to shoot out the next new tool. It's called Neon & Glow, and I'm fortunate enough to have been supplied an advance beta copy, to play around with, evaluate, and publicize here. And since there's no embargo on info for this particular tool, I can show you right now.

I must admit, I struggled a bit getting familiar with the sliders and buttons, and how to structure a work flow. I watched a few YouTube videos by some of the Luminar brand ambassadors, and that helped. The first effort started out slowly, while I just threw commands and adjustments and different neon and glow colors at it. I also added several other layers from other tools, and frankly made a mess of it until suddenly it looked like a finished product. Happy accident, but that's the fun of Luminar Neo:

"Flashing Ann Arbor" ©Daniel Gauss/Shot On Site

Funny anecdote here.. these kinds of edits are not everyone's cup of tea, as my friend Bob will attest. I sent this to him, and his reply verbatim: "Cool, art but not photography.  You did that in the computer not in the camera in the field."  Of course, feeling quite contrary, I countered with: "It all begins as photography.  45 years ago, in this case."  What I meant, of course, is that it always begins with a photograph, and this particular photograph is about 45 years old. But I stand by the larger point here, as well.

Anyway, that's neither here nor there. You want to see what I did to bring some pop-sizzle-bang to that photo club shot. Well here you go. This includes Neon and Glow, and one of the native Luminar Neo layers in the Flares collection. Oh yeah, see the sparkles? They're part of the Glow tool.  I like it, and I hope Sherri M. likes it, too (if she sees it!).

Neon Sherri M. ©Daniel Gauss/Shot On Site

So, you've read all the way down here, waiting for the really big Fall news, right? Here you go. Over the next few months, Skylum will by launching several Generative AI tools, which you can get a brief summary of in this press release from August! 

Time to throw some bullet points, samples, and short summaries (lifted from the press release in case, you know, you're too lazy to click the link above).
  • GenErase: A next-generation Erase tool that not only removes unwanted distractions from your images butalso replaces those areas using content-aware tools, providing a focused and distraction-free composition.This feature preserves the integrity of your photos by intelligently filling in the gaps with textures and otherelements to match the surrounding area. GenErase can seamlessly remove objects like trash, street signs,vehicles, graffiti, and more to preserve the beauty of the composition.
  • SceneExpand: This tool enables users to extend the boundaries of their photos, adding a new dimension tooriginal compositions. Whether creating panoramic landscapes or adding breathing room to favorite images,SceneExpand offers the ability to break free from traditional aspect ratios and unlock new creative possibilities
  • SceneSwap: Lets users replace specific elements (such as the sky or foreground) with high-quality AI-generated visuals that blend seamlessly with the rest of the photo. Imagine a stunning sunset replacing thedull, overcast sky or crystal-clear azure waters instead of a murky pond in your photo
  • Water Enhancer: Designed to enhance water features in aquatic scenes, giving landscape photos greatervisual impact
The first three items are the biggies, and the ones causing some consternation, because unlike all previous tools and extensions available, GenErase, SceneExpand, and SceneSwap will require the user to have an active internet connection. Unless you own, oh I don't know, and IBM Watson supercomputer, you'll need a whole lot more computing power than you've probably got. Skylum will use a massive server farm to help you do these edits in a timely fashion. When you see the examples below, you may see why I think this is a reasonable requirement.  So here they are.


Water Enhancer

Exciting stuff. And if you're lucky enough to be on the Luminar Neo Subscription model, you need do nothing. These will be included in regular updates.  If you own a copy of Luminar Neo, you'll have options to buy these tools either in your account at the Luminar Neo website, or through clicking on the puzzle icon on the upper right of the app.  Or there's another option: you can purchase the Creative Journey Pass for $79 and you'll get all the new goodies, and any still unannounced extensions or tool through August of 2024. Hell of a deal!  And, as always, use PHOTODAN at checkout to save 10%!

Posts may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these, I may receive a small commission at no increased cost to you. Thanks.


Friday, September 15, 2023

I Gotta Show You This!

The most recent update of Luminar Neo had a surprise inside! All the hoopla preceding it was about      Studio Light. (Read about that here).  When it arrived it had another new tool; one that I had been quietly wishing existed. Wish fulfilled.  Let me show you.

This screen grab shows a folder of images I took 21 years ago, on a boat tour of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  As you can see from the details box inset, this was taken at a shutter speed of 1/500th second. I can tell you it was also taken from a moving boat. In mid day.

Now just supposing I would have preferred taking a long exposure shot. At sunset.  Well, for starters, I'd need to be set up on a tripod. On firm ground. You can immediately see that I'd have to be in the water, not on a boat. Water that was probably over 20' deep where the boat was. I'd be out of luck.

Or would I? 

Maybe back then I would've been. But not now. What was the surprise tool in the latest update? One that I will be much more likely to use than the Studio Light tool. It's the Blur Tool! It gives you options for Motion blur, Twisted blur (a fun one to be sure), and my personal favorite, for some reason, Gaussian blur. Hello grandpa (not reallty).

So when I discovered the Blur tool, I knew I had to play around with it. What did I do first? I wasn't sure how to use Gaussian blur, and I couldn't think offhand of any images in my files to use the Twisted blur. But Motion blur? Oh yeah, as a photographer of the fastest running hounds on the planet, I had lots of images to choose from. But in the end, I just picked the first promising picture I came across. A shot I just grabbed while walking back from the Smokin' Oldies car show last spring. A ratrod, or more accurately I guess, a rat-jeep of sorts. It was crossing the intersection and that was all I needed.

Some judicious masking, a few basic color edits, and we've got us a jeep making the jump to hyperspace. (or just accelerating through a red light)

©Daniel Gauss/Shot On Site

So now we come to the image selected at the top of this page. I want to fake a long exposure shot where non actually existed. Again, it was Motion blur to the rescue, along with many, many other tools I like to play with. Sky replacement for one. If I wanted a sunset look I needed a different sky. I prefer to use my own skies for most images, but I think this might be one I got from Luminar. Whatever, it's the perfect sky to match the sunset light I created. 

Pictured Rocks, ©Daniel Gauss/Shot On Site

I used MaskAI to select out the water, then the smoothing was done in two parts. First I reduced the structure to nearly zero, but to finally get the flat water look I used Motion blur setting of almost 100.

And clouds move during a several minute exposure, too, don't they? So MaskAI also selects out the sky, and with a combination of the defocus tool in SkyAI, and Motion blur I got the sky right where I wanted it. 

The final step was the trees. I'm surprised I even thought of it, but the leaves don't sit still over a 2 or 3 minute interval, either. They just required the minutest hint of Gaussian blur. You probably wouldn't even notice it if I didn't tell you. 

Contrasting all the moving parts (artificial, though they are) with the crisp sharpness of the unmoveable rock, and we've got us a pretty compelling photo, if I do say so myself.

And what about Twist blur? Glad you asked. I finally found a use for it. See if you can spot it.

Cactus Ernie ©Daniel Gauss/Shot On Site

Surprisingly, Skylum/Luminar Neo don't have any promotions going on right now, but you can still save a whopping 10% if you decide to make a risk free purchase. Just use the code: PHOTODAN at check out. You can reach their website

Posts may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these, I may receive a small commission at no increased cost to you. Thanks.

Sunday, September 03, 2023

Classical Composer Reacts To "Pet Sounds"

I've been a fan of the Beach Boys for over 60 years. I've been an occasional follower of The Daily Doug for close to two years. This YouTube channel features classical music composer/educator, Doug Helvering, in a genre known as "reaction videos", wherein experts in one type of music express their reactions to other types of music. For some reason, these are wildly popular. I quite enjoy them myself.

In the relatively short time I've been following Daily Doug YouTube videos he's posted reactions to many of my favorite musicians, including Pat Metheny Group, Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd among others. But it always irked me a little that I never saw a reaction video to any Beach Boys songs or albums.. until last Friday, that is.

While scrolling through YouTube's daily recommendations (something I'm wont to do on a daily basis, as mentioned in a previous post here) a couple days ago, I came to a screaching halt. The Friday edition of The Daily Doug, the extended show where he posts reactions to entire albums, would be devoted to, arguably, Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys greatest album: Pet Sounds. And while I had other things I should have been doing at that time, I sat there watching for the next 51 minutes with the volume at 11.

Surprisingly, Doug admitted to only being familiar with only two of the songs on the album! So while he played the album from start to finish, marveling for the first time at the genius of Brian Wilson (and lyricist Tony Asher), I happily sang along with every tune... even the instrumentals.

So, when was the last time you listened to Pet Sounds? For me, it's been a year or two. Buckle up, it's time.